Sweet Vicious is MTV’s latest scripted show, and it’s on track to be the coolest, freshest series on TV. We spoke with the cast and creators at NYCC 2016.
The one-hour dark comedy was set up in a small room at New York Comic-Con’s Javitz center, though if the show makes it to next year’s NYCC, I’m certain the crowds will force them into a larger area. Sweet Vicious has a unique voice that’s directed at Millennials but can speak to anyone, younger or older, male or female, of all races and orientations.
The story follows Jules, played by Eliza Bennett, a meek sorority girl by day and a kickass vigilante by night. Her path crosses with Ophelia, portrayed by Taylor Dearden, who is going about her day hacking computers and selling weed when she figures out what Jules does in her spare time. After a fateful confrontation with one of Jules’ targets, the girls find themselves in league with each other.
After watching the pilot episode, it’s clear that each character on this show is unique and complex, but Jules and Ophelia’s stories are what really sell the series.
At NYCC, the show’s creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson told us, “In creating the show, I really wanted to find a voice and create something that was for women that felt nuanced and felt new and [made you go], ‘Oh my God, I could kick ass like that. That feels like me. She feels like me in every way.'”
“[Jules is] doing something that’s extraordinary,” Robinson continues, “but in a way that does feel feasible and real and true to this very, very cool feminist movement that’s happening right now where women are standing up and they’re feeling empowered and they’re not apologizing for it.”
But that’s not the only way this show is going to stand out from the crowd. “I really do not like any shows where characters are mean to each other and that’s cool,” Robinson says. “That’s not cool. There’s a lot of TV out there, and a lot of what I grew up with in the ’90s, and those movies where it was the really mean, pretty, bitchy girl and the mousy girl. And honestly, f— that. That’s not a thing! Everyone looks different and diversity is beautiful and it should be celebrated. You shouldn’t be put in a box or put in a corner.”
L to R: Brandon Mychal Smith (Harris), Nick Fink (Tyler), Taylor Dearden (Ophelia), Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (creator), Eliza Bennett (Jules), Stacey Sher (EP), Amanda Lasher (EP)
In fact, that was one of the problems the production team had when it came to casting the leads. “It was really hard to find our girls because [their characters are] nuanced,” the creator says. “A lot of girls came in and they played Ophelia, and they were so mean. They were very aloof and they didn’t see the humanity underneath.”
But once Bennett and Dearden did a chemistry test, everyone was sold. “The minute we saw them together in the room when we were casting it, they walked out, and we were like, ‘There’s the show,'” Robinson says.
In case you can’t already tell, this show is going to walk a fine line between a hard-hitting, realistic depiction of life and a type of comedy that’s relatable to multiple generations.
“I want it to be for everyone because there’s so much of it that’s informational,” Robinson says. “People don’t know about consent. I think there’s a lot of miseducation out there, and that’s where a lot of confusion and a lot of the shitty things that are happening are coming from. It’s from a lack of education, so if this show can reach people and can show them in a way that isn’t like taking medicine, [we’ve done our job].”
But this show isn’t just about the two main women. Ophelia’s relationship with Harris is one of the highlights of the pilot because they appear to be so different, and yet it’s obvious they’re the best of friends.
“Harris is the Obama of Sweet/Vicious,” says Brandon Mychal Smith. “Harris represents everything great about America and what America can be and should be — that hope, that resilience, that fight to always be better and do better for others.”
“I think the relationship between Harris and Ophelia is a tango,” he continues. “It’s a tango that never ends. He’s trying to raise her bar; she’s trying to bring him into the bar. And I think you’ll see that color become even more colorful. You’ll see moments where Harris can’t take it anymore and what that reality is, but I think you’ll also see Ophelia bring the best out of Harris and Harris bring the best out of Ophelia.”
And Harris will be dealing with his own issues as well, outside of Ophelia’s situation. The show’s primary focus is on sexual assault, but the series won’t restrict itself to just one reality of life.
In fact, that broad appeal can be difficult when it comes to pitching the show. “Whenever you’re fighting to get an original voice heard anywhere, you can’t put it in a box,” says Executive Producer Stacey Sher. “It’s not exactly like this or exactly like that, so I actually think our greatest challenge […] is now, explaining to people that it’s not this reductive thing, and it’s an original, fresh voice and a new look at the world. I don’t think we’ve treated Millennials with the respect they deserve and [until now, we haven’t said], ‘You’re capable of exploring really complex issues that are going on in our life and you have real feelings.'”
Most importantly, though, “We take [the issues we’re exploring] seriously without being too earnest,” Sher says of striking a balance between not being too direct or too dismissive.
And it turns out Sweet/Vicious found the right network to host the show. EP Amanda Lasher says, “MTV was the perfect place for this show because, from the get-go, they really understood the type of show we wanted to make and they really supported us in going there and the fact that we were taking on these issues. They have an amazing campaign trying to raise awareness about all sorts of issues and when we wanted to do this show, they understood how important it was. They supported us in all our decisions, and with Teen Wolf, they understood making a show with darkness in it and amazing fight sequences and great twists and turns. They were just incredible partners for that.”